Thursday. 13/6/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / James Chambers

‘The police were on the front foot’

Hong Kong experienced one of its darkest days yesterday as black-clad protestors clashed with riot police on the streets surrounding government HQ in Admiralty. Authorities were quick to call this latest opposition to a controversial extradition bill a “riot”.

However, to those of us observing the stand-off, it always looked like the police were on the front foot, firing rubber bullets at youngsters who were, by and large, armed with nothing more than umbrellas. As tear-gas rounds landed in one crowd blocking a major street, many students flooded into the subway to take cover. Water, food and asthma inhalers were passed around, as were woefully inadequate surgical face masks.

Back at street level, officers in protective goggles and gas masks appeared determined to stop this latest demonstration turning into a prolonged occupation akin to 2014’s umbrella movement. So while protestors succeeded in delaying the bill by a day, there is no sense of victory in the air – only the threat of more violence.

Art / Basel

Bigger picture

Collectors rose early to head to the main hall of Art Basel, which opened to the public today. Their strict schedules and willingness to part with money come from the fact that this is where some of the year’s biggest deals will be closed. They’ll spend most of their time in the main pavilion but it’s at Unlimited that they are set to be wowed by large-scale works; pieces that fit neither the physical space nor the remit of the main fair. But most pronounced in the general show is the continued ascendancy of painting. The rise in the number of works on canvas may be seen as a trend but really it’s a commercial choice: this is what sells. In the global art market’s premier arena, it’s only right that galleries make such strategic moves. But as demonstrated by Unlimited and the wildly popular Statements section – dedicated to emerging artists and galleries showing bold new work – being brave can pay dividends too.

Aviation / USA

Blue-sky thinking?

Aviation experts and scholars gathered in Boston this spring to ponder the future of urban air mobility; some expect craft from the likes of Uber and other delivery companies to be zipping from rooftop to rooftop in the world’s densest cities in the next decade or so. This week’s helicopter crash on a Manhattan rooftop – in which the pilot, who had not been cleared to fly in bad weather, was killed – will call those lofty ideas into question. Accidents like this are rare but not unusual in the Big Apple; there have been two crashes in the past month. Should more choppers be flying over urban centres to ease the strain on existing transport networks? It’s a tempting solution but you can expect fierce debate from US lawmakers – and citizens – over the coming months.

Food / Japan

Choosing wisely

When Japan passed legislation last month to tackle the country’s huge food-waste problem – 6.4 million tonnes of edible food is binned every year – convenience-store operators stepped up to play their part. Market leaders Seven-Eleven Japan and Lawson, for example, both said they would discount rice balls and bento boxes that were close to expiry in a bid to shift them from their shelves. Now Lawson has come up with a new idea: for a trial period, its shops in Ehime and Okinawa prefectures will offer extra loyalty points and a donation to family charities when customers buy products marked with “Another Choice” stickers, which will be put on about-to-expire food from late afternoon. With one in seven Japanese children lacking sufficient nourishment (a shocking statistic in such a wealthy country), waste is a pressing issue. It’s a global problem too: the UN says that 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted around the world every year.

Fashion / Florence

Country pursuits

Are you a Swede or a Dane? In Florence for menswear tradeshow Pitti Uomo, Monocle attended a dinner with a group of Scandinavians at which talk turned to the difference in mindset between brands from various Nordic nations. Swedish companies, we were told, have succeeded because they have offered the market democratic products: H&M for clothes, Ikea for furniture and Spotify for music – all offer open-to-all brand values. Swedes tend to shy away from self-promotion and prefer to let the goods do the talking. Danes, by contrast, said our neighbours, are far better at wheeling and dealing, and marketing themselves. And you could see the importance of this Danish mindset the next day at the Pitti fairgrounds. If you’re a young brand-owner seeking attention (and orders), you need to be scrappy and savvy: ushering away designers from high-street labels sent to rip off your ideas, charming buyers and selling your brand in 20 seconds to people who have already seen 500 shirts and are running late for their next appointment. Of course, you also need great clothes ­– but you’ve got to sell the hell out of them. The Danes seem to cope well with this – they might just wish they had a more Swedish product.

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Anya Hindmarch

Anya Hindmarch is a name synonymous with creativity and handbags. Her label was launched in 1987; in the ensuing years, Princess Diana became a loyal customer. With shops around the world, the brand is also known for the Chubby Hearts Over London design project and an ‘I'm not a plastic bag’ environmental campaign.

Monocle Films / Germany

Brand Berlin

The German capital has become home to numerous new businesses and start-ups, attracting people from around the globe. And despite its complex past, it is an outpost of liberalism, possibility and ambition. How can other cities learn from Berlin’s successes – and the challenges it’s faced?

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